Monday, September 27, 2010

Judge Declares Mistrial in Buju Banton's Drug Case

The drug trial of Jamaican reggae artist Buju Banton ended in a mistrial this afternoon when jurors said they could not agree on a verdict after three days of deliberations, according to Reuters.

Buju was arrested in December in Sarasota, Fla., and charged with conspiring to buy 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of cocaine from an undercover police informant. He has been held without bail since his arrest.

The 12-member jury had been meeting since Thursday after a four-day trial. They deliberated about 10 hours Thursday and Friday before going home for the weekend. After a little more than an hour Monday morning, they notified the judge they were having trouble reaching a decision. The judge told them to keep trying, but at 3pm, U.S. District Judge James Moody declared a mistrial and said a retrial would not begin until at least December.

Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, could face life in prison if convicted. His defense attorney argued that the entertainer was tricked by the informant, a convicted cocaine smuggler named Alexander Johnson who avoided prison by agreeing to work as an informant and was paid more than $3 million by the US government.

According to testimony, Buju introduced Alexander to his driver and friend, Ian Thomas. Prosecutors played a video that shows the group of men at a warehouse on Dec. 8, where undercover law enforcement officers did a "flash," or a surprise showing, of 5 kilos of cocaine. On the video, Ian is seen cutting open one of the packages while Buju watches. Ian then hands Buju the knife, and the singer runs his finger across the blade and tastes the sample. He then watches as Ian and Alexander negotiate, at one point saying, "Name your price."

After that meeting, Buju refused to do business with the men and the drug deal, but prosecutors claim Buju flaked out on the deal because he didn't want to go to jail.


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